The Night of the big bust-up
John and Gwen lived upstairs in the rooms directly next to ours but in the other half of the house. To get to their place you had to do down the four stories on our side and up the four stories on theirs. It was good for the heart but we didn’t do it much. Gwen was a terrible cook. We went round for a meal which consisted of spaghetti with a tin of sweetcorn. I can’t say I relished it.
John was freshly out of prison for grievous bodily harm. He was a heroin addict and had a bit of a temper, particularly when he’d been drinking and was low on smack.
They had a baby. I think Gwen was hoping that the baby might have a stabilising effect on John. I couldn’t see it.
As we were on the top floor in the attic we had dormer windows that opened on to the roof. We both had cats and because we were at the top of the house they’d go out on to the roof. That was their territory. Our cat, Cherokee, was a black female and theirs was a ginger female. But they did not get on. In the middle of the night there would be an almighty caterwauling, yowling, hissing and spitting followed by an almighty fight. At the end of the fight on one occasion there was a great –
Our Cherokee had knocked their cat off the roof. It fell five storeys into the basement and fractured all four legs. The vet’s bill was pretty hefty. Cherokee slid in through the window looking pretty pleased with herself.
John and Gwen were not amused.
On this particular night it was Terry’s birthday and he and Jane had invited John and Gwen out for a celebration at the local boozer. Gwen had asked us to baby-sit and had brought the baby round in a Moses basket.
At eleven o clock the bell rang and it was Gwen and Jane who were distraught and hysterical. We took them up and calmed them down with mugs of coffee to sober them up.
There had been an argument and a fight. John had beaten Terry up.
We just managed to settle them when the doorbell rang. I went down. It was Terry. He was mumbling and a bit incoherent. Partially because of the drink and partly because he’d bitten his tongue which looked as if it was partly severed.
‘My best mate,’ he mumbled. ‘I couldn’t hit him.’
I persuaded him to come upstairs and doused him with coffee. It was apparent that he had stood there and simply allowed John to batter him. All he kept saying was:
‘He was my best mate. I couldn’t hit him.’
It was also apparent that his tongue was very badly damaged. It was like the end was hanging off.
We managed to calm everyone and then the doorbell rang. An electricity ran round the room. There was only one person it could be.
I went down and answered the door.
John was standing there.
‘Can you ask Gwen to give me the key to the flat,’ he mumbled not looking me in the eye.
I told him I’d go and get it. Just then Gwen came charging down the stairs clutching our bread knife and lunged for John.
‘YOUUUU BAAASTAAAARRRRD!!!’ she shrieked.
I grabbed her hand as John stood there unflinching. I was taking the knife off her when Terry came piling down the stairs.
‘My best mate,’ he said with quite a lisp. It’s hard to speak with your tongue hanging off. He tried to get the knife off me and stab John. Somehow we got Gwen and Terry back upstairs and I shut the door on John.
It all goes quiet.
It is now one o’ clock in the morning.
‘We’d better go round and get some things for the baby,’ Gwen reasoned. We’d sorted that the baby and her would stay with us for the night. Terry and Jane would go to A&E and get Terry patched up.
We went downstairs and up the other side. There we found John crashed out on the landing. He didn’t have a key so he couldn’t get into the flat. He was out for a light.
We stepped over him and opened the flat. We quickly got the nappies and essential items and came out. Terry stepped over John and took a few paces down the stairs. Gwen stepped over him and followed. I was just shutting the door when Gwen turned back and gave John a vicious kick in the ribs.
‘You Baaaassttttaaarddd!!’ She shrieked. ‘’Ruun!’
With that her and Terry belt off down the stairs leaving me having just shut the door and John between me and the stairs.
‘I just want to crash,’ John remonstrates blearily. ‘Just get Gwen to give me the key.’
I’m wishing I hadn’t shut the door.
‘I’ll go and get it,’ I say, edging past him.
I manage to squeeze past and head downstairs. Gwen is at the bottom with Terry. She refuses to give me the key. John is bellowing down.
We head back to our place.
John is evidently working himself up to a fury and decides to break in. We sit and listen as he smashes, kicks and batters the door into matchwood.
Once in the rage is there and we hear the sound of crashing and splintering as he wrecks the place.
Then it goes quiet.